By LaRue V. Gillespie

If the idea of being hypnotized has you picturing a golden pocketwatch swinging in front of your eyes or clucking like a chicken at the sound of fingers snapping, then you’re not alone. Hollywood and stage hypnotism have done much to invoke sheer skepticism when it comes to the validity of hypnosis and hypnotherapy that the mention of it alone is almost laughable.

All joking aside, hypnosis has been shown to be helpful in treating a variety of mental and behavioral health issues such as addictions, phobias, anxiety, sleep disorders, weight loss, and sexual dysfunction, according to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (

In the medical arena, hypnosis has been used to help with pain management, negative effects of chemotherapy, and gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In fact, an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (2015) showed that hypnotherapy used in clinical trials for the treatment of IBS (and ulcerative colitis) was found to have positive response rates in 53 percent to 94 percent of participants, with the therapeutic benefits still apparent 12 months later.


So, what exactly is hypnosis? According to American Psychological Association, Division 30 (Society of Clinical Hypnosis), hypnosis is “a procedure during which a health professional or researcher suggests while treating someone, that he or she experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior.” Sounds a little creepy, perhaps. We get it.

Simply put, hypnosis means you’re being put into a very relaxed state and your mind is open to potentially helpful suggestions. Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis to get you into that relaxed state so you can attain a goal, be that pain relief or quitting a bad habit.

For former bikini fitness competitor Danny Johnson (a.k.a. Danny-J), her goal was to reduce feelings of anxiety in social situations and around food (super strict dieting was something she lived by when competing). She tried everything: books, counseling, medication, and group therapy, but nothing helped. She turned to hypnotherapy as a last-ditch effort. “I thought they were going to do the ‘you’re-getting-verrrrry-sleepy’ deal,” she says, recalling her first session more than four years ago at the age of 33. “I was skeptical 100 percent.”

To her surprise, she was instead instructed to lie down on a couch and get comfortable. “It was almost like guided meditation at the end of a yoga class,” she explains. “They talked you through relaxation and then had you create scenarios or answer questions, but you didn’t even have to do it out loud, which made me feel safer and not so self-conscious.”


What Johnson experienced are the two stages of hypnotherapy. The first is the induction stage, during which a hypnotherapist encourages you to relax and focus your attention as you slip into hypnosis. “When you are relaxed and feeling safe, you become open to suggestions, but only those suggestions you desire to experience in your life,” explains Grace Smith, a hypnotherapist and author of Close Your Eyes, Get Free (July 2018).

The second stage is the suggestion stage. The hypnotherapist will talk you through hypothetical events that might help you address, counteract, or get to the root of behaviors or emotions. Think of the hypnotherapist as a facilitator or a guide, helping you do the necessary work in your subconscious mind. You are aware of what is happening the entire time, and you can’t be coerced into doing something against your will. “A hypnotist can't make anyone do something they don't want to do,” says Smith. “If they could, all hypnotists would be billionaires, and I haven't met one who is yet.”

When asked if hypnotherapy can help people start working out again or eating right, Smith says, absolutely. “By finding out what in the subconscious is trying to ‘keep you safe’ by having you not work out, not lose the weight, or continue to eat unhealthy foods,” she explained. “Once you know why the subconscious is making these changes so difficult for you, you can then begin to introduce information about why and how working out and eating right will keep you safe.”


Ready to book an appointment? Do a bit of research. Always inquire about the therapist's background, education, certifications, and experience and make sure you feel comfortable with that person.

The average cost of a one-hour session will put you back about $75 to $125, depending on where you live. Insurance doesn't typically cover hypnosis, but it could cover therapy sessions that include hypnosis.

How many sessions are necessary? According to Smith, “A study by Alfred Barrios PhD found that six sessions of hypnotherapy resulted in an average of 93 percent improvement.” This study is a few decades old, but most hypnotherapists seem to agree that multiple sessions are necessary to effect lasting change.

As for Johnson, who is a personal trainer and financial coach, she said hypnotherapy definitely helped her get over her anxiety issues. “I’ve continued to use hypnotherapy to empower myself when new things come up and I end up recommending it to nearly everyone as a coach,” she says.


American Society for Clinical Hypnosis:

National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists:

Grace Space Hypnotherapists (founded by Grace Smith):

LaRue V. Gillespie
LaRue's journalism career has taken her from being a features reporter with a newspaper group to the editor-in-chief and creative director of a fitness magazine. She's currently a freelance writer with a passion for penning investigative health reports.